Breeja Larson Seizes Best Olympic Trials Moment to Date

  133 Braden Keith | June 27th, 2012 | News

Wednesday was the best day of the Olympic Trials so far, and it may remain that way through the end.

Day 3 in Omaha at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials had 12 roster spots to award – doubling the first two days combined. After the youth was the big story on day 2, especially National Age Group Records by Katie Ledecky, Kevin Cordes, and Ryan Murphy, day three will continue that streak but in a bit of a different vein.

That’s because to this point, each of the 6 event-final winners thus far are returning Olympians. We’ve seen some new blood in swimmers like Claire Donahue, but none that have been able to break through and win.

That streak was broken on Wednesday, with two of the four winners being brand-new Olympians for the US (though even at that, their experience is vastly different).

On top of that, we’ll see a Lochte-Phelps final in a race where they were very well-matched.

Women’s 200 Free Semifinal

In the first women’s 200 free semi-final, there was an expectation that Dana Vollmer, swimming out of lane 4, would have a good swim and push the pace. That didn’t really happen as hoped. She didn’t look bad, but in a great closing 30 meters, she got locked in a battle between Shannon Vreeland and Megan Romano, teammates from Georgia. Vollmer didn’t have the energy (or the desire?) to fight them off at the end.

Vreeland ended up winning the heat, with a 2nd seeded overall time of 1:57.78. Vollmer was just behind in 1:57.81, and Romano was 3rd in 1:57.81. They were the 2-3-4 seeds overall.

But in the 2nd heat, Allison Schmitt had no trouble pushing an early pace. She dominated the second heat with a 1:55.59 to take the top overall speed. There’s a chance she went out too fast, but then again I think that’s where she needed to be if she wants to keep up with the best of the world.

Missy Franklin was 2nd in that heat, but didn’t get bated into showing too much. We’d find out later after her American Record in the 100 back, that she played this like few veterans in the world could, at only 17. She cruised in to a 5th seed in 1:58.04, saving enough energy for the later race.

Lauren Perdue, just a few months off of back surgery, continued to amaze by placing 7th in 1:58.28. The last finalist, almost unnoticed, was Chelsea Chenault in 1:58.64. That locked out 15-year old phenom Katie Ledecky from the final by just .02. With that kind of speed, Ledecky is dangerous.

Men’s 200 Free Final

Ryan Lochte did what Ryan Lochte has been doing throughout this meet. He controlled the race, and had a huge wall coming into the final 50.

But this time, Michael Phelps decided that the race wasn’t decided based on who is winning at 165 meters when those first strokes are taken coming from the last wall. It’s not even decided with two meters to go. It’s decided only once: at the 200 meter mark. Lochte’s head was ahead of Phelps’ as they disappeared behind the blocks into the closing inches of this 200 free, but Phelps still lit up the scoreboard first, as he’s so good at doing.

Phelps got his finger-tips to the wall in 1:45.70, with Lochte touching 2nd in 1:45.75. The two tied with identical 26.59’s on the last 50.

Still, as exciting as the race was, the times will come off as a bit disappointing. Phelps was actually faster at the Columbus Grand Prix by .01 seconds. That’s usually his mid-season rest-meet, but that shows us where he’s at in his training – more of a “rest” mode than a big taper. Lochte is likely in the same boat. France’s Yannick Agnel has been faster than those two times three-times already this season.

Ricky Berens, meanwhile, had a dreadful third 50 – almost the slowest of the entire final. But after that last turn, he showed that the East Coast isn’t the only place that can put up killer third 50. Representing the West Coast, he blew by three competitors to land himself on the medal stand in 1:46.56.

And nabbing his second guaranteed spot in the meet, Conor Dwyer was 4th in 1:46.64. That put two Florida Gators at least into this 800 free relay.

Swimmers who are also likely to swim at least preliminary heats are Matt McLean, doing a great job to make his first Olympic Team, in 1:46.78; and Charlie Houchin in 1:46.88. They were both really shooting for spots in that 400 free, but I think both far outdid most expectations and got their Olympic rings.

Davis Tarwater was 7th in 1:47.02, just missing his first Olympic Team by one spot – a situation he’s unfortunately familiar with after 2008, where he was 3rd in the 200 fly. Michael Klueh rounded out this A-final, finishing 8th in 1:48.29.

Women’s 100 Back Final

Natalie Coughlin very nearly did what nobody was expecting her to do. She did everything she could. She took out this 100 back like she normally does – hard – but even this was unusual for her. She opened the race in 28.50. She held it together fairly well, but ultimately came up just short in 1:00.06 (the only time she was out faster than that  was the old U.S. Open Record of 58.97).

That’s a bit of foreshadowing with the “old” record. That’s because Missy Franklin, in 4th place at the turn, roared-home like a freight-train to take the win in an American Record, U.S. Open Record, 17-18 National Age Group Record, and an overall incredible swim in 58.85.

That’s puts her 4th on the all-time list, and is the fastest ever swum in a textile suit (bettering Jing Zhao’s 58.94 from 2010).

What can’t be overlooked is that this was done about half-an-hour after her 200 freestyle.

Coughlin will now be off of the Olympic Team in an event where she was the two-time defending gold medalist. Yes, she could make it in the 100 free for a relay; yes we should expect her to swim the 50 free at the end of the session as well, but even if she made the team in one of those two events, it just wouldn’t feel the same.

Rachel Bootsma couldn’t match her early-round speed, but was 2nd in 59.49. That means the average age of the two American swimmers in this event at Trials will be 17.5. That’s probably close to a record.

Olivia Smoliga was 4th in 1:00.46.

Men’s 100 Back Final

Matt Grevers is the next in a long-line of American backstrokers – after winning four-straight Olympic gold medals, Aaron Peirsol’s retirement left a bit of a vacuum. But Grevers, despite a tough two-year run, is the defending silver medalist from Beijing. But his swim tonight is even faster than Peirsol ever was, in textile at least.

Grevers won the race in 52.08, which is the best time ever done in textile and the second-fastest in history, period, after Peirsol’s World Record (.14 faster).

This race was a no-doubter, as Grevers led the whole way. With his 6’9 frame, nobody was going to out-touch him here. It’s a story of perseverance.

The battle for 2nd mirrored many that Nick Thoman and David Plummer have had in the last two years, swimming neck-and-neck down the pool. Neither started particularly hard, but they finished amazingly. Thoman came-from-behind to swim a 52.86 to make the Olympic Team, and Plummer was 3rd in 52.98.

Ben Hesen, a former NCAA Champion in this race, ended up 4th in 53.03. That’s a lifetime best for him by three-tenths.

Those four now leave the Americans sitting 1-3-5-6 in the World Rankings this year.

No new Records for Ryan Murphy in this final with a 53.92 for 6th overall; that will leave the 15-16 National Age Group Record at 53.76.

Women’s 100 Breast Final

Breeja Larson, in the women’s 100 breaststroke, gave us the best Olympic Trials moment to date in Omaha.

First, a backstory for those who don’t follow college swimming closely: This is Breeja Larson’s first long course taper. You read that right: she has never tapered in long course before.

She didn’t begin swimming seriously until her junior year of high school. Texas A&M’s Steve Bultman had the eye to grab her out of Arizona. By the end of her freshman year in college, she was a 58.5. By the end of her sophomore year in college, she was the fastest 100 yard breaststroker in yards history in 57.71.

Last summer, the anticipation was huge, but some serious illness issues meant that her summer was basically ruined.

This summer, she was on the Olympic Team, with a 1:05.92 to win. After that, she threw all Olympic Trials decorum to the wind, and sprinted over to her coach and teammates in the stands and hugged anybody in sight. As I sit here and write this recap, half-an-hour after the last race and an hour after her swim, she’s still signing autographs. Simply an amazing time, from a swimmer who hasn’t been around long enough to learn anything other than to soak in every ounce of the moment.

Now for the nuts and bolts. She has a huge pullout, derived from her pre-swimming activities. In addition to swimming (she only started her high school team as a sophomore) she also lettered in softball and track & field. She’s very tall, and she’s powerful.

That’s the highest-finish ever by a Texas A&M swimmer at the Olympic Trials (behind Cammile Adams’ 400 IM 3rd-place finish earlier in this meet), and the second-straight quadrennial that they’ve put a swimmer on the Olympic Team.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Soni, the sure-fire favorite in this race, had a bad finish and took 2nd in 1:05.99. That’s not even her best time this year, meaning that Larson ranks 2nd in the world and Soni is still probably the Olympic favorite.

Jessica Hardy was the tough-luck third-place swimmer, with a 1:06.53 for 3rd. That is four-tenths slower than she was at the Indy Grand Prix, and more disappointment. She should still make the team in the 100 free, and probably the 50, but after saying she had given up on this race at one point, I think it really hurts her to not make the team.

Those three are the three-fastest in the world this year.

Just about everyone in the 4-8 spots had a great race in one round or another of this 100 breaststroke, but Ellyn Baumgardner had the best in finals with a 1:07.19. That’s a full-second drop off of her best time coming into this meet. Annie Chandler was 5th in 1:07.28, which was by far her best chance at making the team. She’s already said that she’s retiring after this year, and barring a big surprise in the 50 free or 200 breaststroke, she’s probably ending her career here in Omaha.

Men’s  200 Fly Semifinal

Bobby Bollier slow-paced this men’s 200 fly early, but he continued winning long course races, with a 1:56.06. That’s his best time since 2009. Davis Tarwater didn’t let the disappointment in the 200 free earlier in the session, came back and took 2nd here in 1:56.10. I don’t think that this is the race that people expected him to make the team in 1:56.10.

The 2nd heat was by-far the fastest, and Phelps was 3rd in the heat, and overall, in 1:56.42. Tyler Clary was 4th in 1:56.56. This tight-seeded final will be one of the best of the meet (and most unpredictable).

Tom Shields just missed this final, with a 1:58.75 for 9th.

Women’s 200 IM Semifinal

Sometimes, coach knows best. Paul Yetter, head coach of T2 Aquatics swimmer Liz Pelton, decided to scratch his 18-year old protege from the 100 back final where she was the 4th seed. Instead, he decided she should focus on the 200 IM that was not far after – a move that he was criticized for.

I don’t think she was getting to a 59-low in the 100 back, but she did not fail to impress in the 200 IM and made Yetter look like a genius, as she took the top seed in the semi’s in 2:11.37, winning the first heat and taking the 2nd-seed overall.

It’s going to be very obvious tomorrow when she’s swimming next to Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz (top seed – 2:10.51) that her breaststroke is where she needs the most work, but Pelton’s closing freestyle leg was outstanding (30.91 – only swimmer better than 31).

Elizabeth Beisel (2:12.27) and Ariana Kukors (2:12.32) are both in the same boat as the 3 and 4 seeds, respectively. They need to get out way better on the front-half to make the team in this event.

Maya DiRadoJana MangimelliJasmine Tosky, and Celina Li topped off this final, with Tosky (even on a second swim of the session) looking as good as she has this week.

Whitney Burnett just missed in 2:14.17, and she told Garrett McCaffrey after the race that this was the last time she’d ever swim the 200 IM.

Full session results available here.


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133 Comments on "Breeja Larson Seizes Best Olympic Trials Moment to Date"

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Both Amanda Beard and Jilen Siroky were 14 when they made the 1996 squad in the 200Br. That’s easily the record

Botsford was on that squad as well at age 14.

cynthia curran

Tom Shields trying again in 2016 which is great.

I actually thought Missy Franklin was going to swim through the touch pad! Her closing speed is absurd. And dangerous, she could sprain something in her hand/finger/wrist if she’s not careful.

Coughlin showed much resilience tonight. I thought she was so gracious and sincere to both Franklin and Bootsma at the end of the race. There isn’t anyone on the planet that could justifiably dislike Coughlin (I’m talk to you SWIM ARGENTINA).

I have a hunch/prediction that if Coughlin does not qualify for the team, Franklin will scratch the 100 back or 100 free (if possible) to let her on. NBC would eat that up. Not sure how the coaches would feel.

Distance Alum
@GOSHARKS (There isn’t anyone on the planet that could justifiably dislike Coughlin ): You’ve got to be kidding. Not sure what you are referring to w/ SWIM ARGENTINA, but don’t you think Coughlin has been a little over the top with her comments saying she is the female Michael Phelps (even if she was, what person would say that about themselves?), doing photoshoots constantly instead of training, constantly tweeted about all the great things about herself, etc. Did you read her book? She blames everyone BUT herself for things that have gone wrong. Do you notice that she is never human – always has to put on a perfect face, always wears eyeliner, etc, even for interviews that take place… Read more »
It sounds like Coughlin’s success and ability to apply make-up have really offended you. The comments regarding “the female Michael Phelps” come from an interview with Piers Morgan, that I watched, during which Morgan asks Coughlin if she is the female Michael Phelps. Coughlin replies: “In some ways, I am the female Michael, but it’s apples and oranges.” To say that she considers herself the female Michael Phelps is to take her comment and the interview out of context. There are, in fact, some ways in which she is the female Michael, including but not limited to: 1. her versatility (including qualifying for all Olympic Trials events at age 15 or 16) 2. her enumerable records broken (including holding 3… Read more »
Saying that she is the female Michael in anyway is pretty bad. Watch the morning show on Swimming World Magazine sometime. At 6a.m. she has make up on. Qualifying for Trials in all events (oh, and she was 17) does not a Michael Phelps make. That would be more like making the Olympics in every event, or even winning a gold medal in nearly every event. The point is not whether or not she is, it is whether she even partially said that. As an example of what the problem is, here is a tweet from her tonight (who would say that sort of thing???): I did my best to get through all the autographs tonight, but need to take… Read more »

Talk about teenage resentment!

Who are you, her old Terrapins’ coach? “I can honestly say that if she had stuck with Terrapins instead of playing her games, she might have been as big as Michael Phelps”. She’s become one of the most decorated swimmers/Olympians/college athletes in history under Teri McKeever, after she was about to quit swimming under the Terrapins. That was a decade ago and I doubt she’d still be swimming if she had trained anywhere else.

Touche!! ^^

I use the UC Berkeley gym on a daily basis and I see her there at least a few times every week. The only time I ever talked to her was when I asked her for a photo and she was really nice about it. I haven’t read her book or her Twitter account, although I know her age-group coach almost burned her out as a distance swimmer. When did she say she was the female Phelps?

@Distance Alum: That is exactly right. I’ve never been able to pin it down. Never disliked her, but never felt she was endearing at all.

@CalBearFan: You didn’t see her on Piers Morgan (CNN) two weeks ago or so saying that. That clip kind of went viral. No doubt she comes across as nice, but likely very superficial.

I don’t know if Franklin would necessarily give the spot up for coughlin but we could see something similar to what happened four years ago with Dara torres in 100 free, where she gave up her spot to focus on the 50 and relays. Missy could have the intention of just trying to be on the relay unless she post an earth shattering time that would make her the favorite for gold. Plus allowing Natalie, her idol, to be on the team would probably be a bonus for her

Why would Franklin sacrifice 100 back where she is now the favorite?
It does not make any sense.

Dara Torres never had any real intention to swim 100 free individually, she had stated it, and also, she was not the favorite in 100 free. Trickett and Steffen were the hot favorites.

I’m talking about the 100 free

Now that Coughlin doesn’t get to defend her gold, the only other female swimmer who has the chance for three-peat in London in Coventry.

Unfortunately for Coventry, even if she is still going to London to defend her gold, the talent in women 200 back is probably at an all time high. Coventry would already be lucky if she can final.

re:Franklin’s closing speed, yes it is outrageous. Once she is in the momentum, she is unstoppable. I’ve said this in swiminfo after Shanghai:
Franklin is the first specimen: a really tall female swimmer who can swim really good.

Sprinters(female and male) are normally very tall. Nowadays, is very rare a short swimmer in a TOP spot at any event.Of course there is some exceptions like Ye Shiwen(i find amazing if she really is 160cm) and king frog.

Beisel really isn’t all that tall either…


Haha Franklin is the first tall female swimmer to swim fast? What?

Britta Steffen – 5’11”
Femke Heemskerk – 5’11”
Marleen Veldhuis – 5’11”
Jessica Hardy – 5’11”
Breeja Larson – 6’0”
Liv Jensen – 6’3”
Cate/Bronte Campbell – 6’0”
Inge Dekker – 6’0”
Allison Schmitt – 6’1”
Sarah Sjoestroem – 5’11”
Megan Romano – 6’2”
Dana Vollmer – 6’0”
Dara Torres – 6’0”
Amanda Weir – 6’0”
Anastasia Zueva – 5’11”
Emily Seebohm – 5’11”
Christine Magnuson – 6’0”
Courtney Shealy – 6’3”
Amy Van Dyken – 6’0”
Franziska van Almsick – 5’11”
Jill Sterkel – 5’11”

I am sure the list goes on and there are probably quite a few tall and fast females I am forgetting.


Lotte Friis is 6’2″

Almost all of those you listed are 6′ or under.

I consider “really tall” or “giant”(for female swimmers) or as at least 6’2”.
And I consider “those who can swim really well/fast” as worlds or Olympics gold individual medalist.

Can’t see it in your list.

By the way, did you really create a new identity just to write this?

Yes I did change my name to post this. Not all that hard, I promise. According to your definition of “really tall” and “really fast,” Franklin does not fall under that category either as she is “only” 6’1”. What you should do now is swallow your pride and admit that Franklin is not the first tall swimmer to swim fast, in fact height has been a requirement for fast swimming for the better part of the past 25 years. As we all know the physics of the sport favors a taller athlete with longer levers, and a longer boat has more speed potential. Also if you do not think the women on that list are “fast” then I would encourage… Read more »




I’d say the Dutch are pretty tall. Vollmer as well.

None except Missy is near 1.90m… even the Dutch top.. De Brujin was 1.78m

And Thanks god for Engineering.. otherwise I would not be able at all to understand Inch and Feet system..

If you can not aknowledge Sweden (Women at least) there must be a problem with US..

Veldhuis and Vollmer are 1.81 and 1.82 according to the internet, and Franklin is 1.85 (although she may have grown), although from seeing Vollmer up close, she’s definitely more than 1.82.

Incidentally, if you search “missy franklin”, the top two suggestions are “missy franklin college” and “missy franklin cal”…

No one cares for your metric system here. It’s one of those made up things we americans refuse to acknowledge, like dragons, unicorns, and sweden.


About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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